The Cleveland Cavaliers playoff chances are down to slim and none, as they are now six games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and last spot in the Eastern Conference.
However, that doesn’t mean the wine and gold should go into full tank mode for the rest of the season.
On a pretty good west coast swing in which the Cavs went 2-1 beating playoff teams/contenders Golden State and Phoenix, they also lost Kyrie Irving for at least two weeks with a biceps injury.
We believe that Irving should go back on the court when he is healthy, and really, he would show a great deal of leadership by demanding he play.
It would show everyone in the organization that the days of losing being an acceptable outcome are long gone.
However, with all of the injury issues, which also include Luol Deng (ankle) and C. J. Miles (foot/ankle), it is time to start seeing what you have in some of the players currently residing on the bench.
With the same players out on Tuesday night against Miami, Mike Brown decided to play virtually eight players, with the ninth (Miles) playing less than two minutes.
The only guys to get decent minutes as substitutes were Anderson Varejao, Matthew Dellavedova, and Tyler Zeller.
Brown has to learn for the first time in his coaching career how to ease young players into action, because as we’ve been reminded many times, he’s always coached his team to the playoffs and he’s always gotten past the first round.
Brown needs to give Sergey Karasev some minutes, and not just the last five minutes of the game, he needs to get him in the rotation.
And while Brown’s instinct is to give Varejao more minutes at forward/center, he needs to get Zeller on the court for more minutes as well.
That’s what is best for the future of this franchise, whether Brown is part of that future or not.
It has been rumored that acting GM David Griffin may sign G Seth Curry to a ten-day contract because of the injury to Irving, and our joke was would Brown even notice he was on the bench because of his reluctance to play younger players.
We have discussed the coach’s lack of success developing young players before, but this is his opportunity to change and start “coaching them up”.
You have to wonder what is going on since the wine and gold have pretty much one coach per player on the roster. They have to be working with these guys and getting them ready to play in the NBA.
And if and when Anthony Bennett is ready to play again, he needs to be out there on a steady basis too. That’s what the last three and a half weeks of the season should be about.
We aren’t saying that the rookies and Zeller should be playing 40 minutes per night, nor should Deng and Miles be benched for the rest of the year.
Winning should still be in the equation as well because this team needs to learn how to win and maybe a strong finish will give them a boost going into the summer.
But, Zeller, Karasev, and some of the other guys at the end of the bench should be getting some minutes on a nightly basis too.
Let’s see if the coaching staff can make a bit of a change.